Two massive concrete letters -- C and P -- have weathered 45 years on a hillside above Cal Poly Pomona, a symbol of the state university in the same way that the Hollywood sign welcomes visitors to the entertainment capital.
But last week, a second P (for Pomona) was added to the monument on Colt Hill, and the 19,804-student campus celebrated a visible icon of its independence from the other Cal Poly, 230 miles to the north.
"We felt it was important to have our own unique identity," said former President Robert Suzuki, whose wife, Agnes, dreamed up the idea for the new P nearly two years ago.
Though known for its engineering, business and other programs, the Pomona campus has often been confused with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, alums and administrators said.
Cal Poly Pomona, in fact, began as a southern extension of the San Luis Obispo school. Established in the 1930s in San Dimas, it moved to its current site on the former W. K. Kellogg Arabian horse farm about 20 years later and became fully independent from San Luis Obispo in the mid-1960s.
"We've always been known as kind of a stepchild," said alumnus Warren "Skip" Tyler, 71. As a student leader in 1957, he helped organize the construction of the original initials -- each letter 25 feet high and 20 feet wide -- on the hill. He said he was delighted to see the third letter unveiled at the ceremony last week.
Ron Simons, associate vice president for university development, who helped in the efforts to rebuild the monument, was also pleased.
"Now you look up and see CPP so there's no mistaking who we are and where we are," he said.
Over the years, it has been such a Pomona tradition for students to paint the two letters in various colors that the paint layers are about 3 inches thick. For now, the campus' official colors rule: the C and the P for Pomona are painted green and the P for Poly is painted gold.
"It's sort of an icon for the school, and a lot of it is historical," said Lowell Overton, a 1977 graduate who helped to raise funds for the new letter project. It cost about $10,000, financed by cash contributions and materials donated from alumni.
School officials decided students should again be in charge of design and construction as they had been on the first two letters. That fit well with the school's theme of learning by doing.
The art department held a design contest last spring, and a sketch by then-sophomore Katie Sullivan was chosen from several hundred entries.
"I was really surprised and really thrilled," said Sullivan, an art major with a specialty in graphic design. "How great a way to leave a mark on the school."
Sullivan's design -- the first one she's ever had built -- also thickened the existing letters and modernized them by trimming the serifs on the edge of the letters.
Construction engineering students then took on the task as a real-life challenge and received two class credits for the work as independent study.
"It's on a hill, and it's far away from everything. It was hot and hard," said senior Rebekah Baro, president of the Construction Engineering Management Assn. club, which led the building project.
Working on Saturdays beginning in March, the students walked up a steep path from behind the sign to clear the area. They broke ground in April. The students then built wooden forms for the cement.
The biggest problem, however, was getting the cement up the 40-degree hill and pouring it without having it all slide down. Baro contacted contractors for advice.
"The logistics of it were huge," she said. "How were we going to put [wet] concrete on a hill?" There is a small walking path to the site, but a truck couldn't make it up there.
Tyler, the alumnus, said the students originally chose that location because it was so steep and it was an unlikely site for buildings. Plus, it had very good visibility.
"You could see it from the freeway very easily, and it was very identifiable in that area," Tyler said.
In the 1950s, the students drove a bulldozer backward up the hill, carrying a cattle trough filled with mixed cement, Tyler said. But now an avocado grove blocks the original path. Otherwise, Baro said, she would have done the same thing.
This time around, cement was pumped through a hose 400 feet up from a parking lot, Baro said.
Some problems -- blocked hoses, watery cement arose, but the students managed to complete their task on time. Though just 10 students are receiving credit for their work, about 50 people showed up to help pour the cement.
After the new P and the newly thickened letters dried, the students painted them with dozens of gallons of paint.
"It was really cool to see a logo that I made ... on a hill," Sullivan said.
Baro agreed. "I stare at it a lot. I'm like, 'Wow, I did that.' "
Meanwhile, the San Luis Obispo campus has its own hillside pride -- a single P for Polytechnic that has gone through many incarnations since 1913. The current P, built in 1957, stands 50 feet long and 35 feet wide.
"It sounds like a case of emblem envy to me," Leah Kolt, the San Luis Obispo director of public affairs, said of the Pomona project.
Plus, as San Luis Obispo administrators like to point out, the Cal Poly nickname is technically more appropriate for their campus since its full proper name is California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo while Pomona's full title is California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
But Suzuki thinks "it's a very healthy rivalry," and he noted that the schools still collaborate on their annual Rose Parade float.